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Miracle Achieved by the Joint Efforts of a Local Community and a Government Administration :: An "Economy of Water" by a Visionary Crusader UMAKANT UMRAO


United Nations, UN, selected Dewas district’s community water management works in the best three water management practices in the world under the category of “Best Water Management Practices” for 2011-2012.

The link of UN website of the award is given below- (the third rank in category 01)

Dewas, Ponds, Reva Sagar, Local Community & an evolution of a Crusader
Dewas was one of the most drought districts of Madhya Pradesh since few decades. Water  was  supplied  to the  city  through  railway.  Groundwater level was going down gradually due to  continuous uses of water in irrigation and domestic purposes. The economic condition of the  villagers was too pathetic and hopeless.

The soil of Dewas is a fertile soil but the agricultural productivity was reduced too much in recent decades. The agricultural productivity is not only based on the quality of soil, if it is then the productions should have been increased by few hundreds percentages in Dewas. For the past many years the farmers of the district Dewas did not sow Rabi crops, and if they did, the out put was  meager. The underground water level had gone down more or less up to 1000 feet.

In these hopeless and critical circumstances, a visionary, downtrodden and enthusiastic public officer, Umakant Umrao, IAS, took charges as the district collector of Dewas. He changed the whole scenario of the district Dewas by his concept of “Economics of water” though Dewas had lost all hopes for a change.  He motivated farmers to accept responsibility individually rather than the society and it was made certain that the uses of groundwater would be based on harvesting of groundwater. He told Ground Report India, “If farmers & their families are happy it means society is happy”.

Water Level in Dewas after water works:

The concept of Reva Sagar & Bhagirath Krishak:

As an effort to resolve the critical situation of water, a concept was introduced by Umakant Umrao to convert “save water movement” into a social movement of “Economics of Water”. This was accepted by the farmers as a new thought and was called as Reva Sagar Bhagirath Krishak Abhiyan.

The holy river Narmada is the life of Madhya Pradesh also of district Dewas. Narmada is not only a river, it is a source of religious beliefs. Reva is one of the many local names of Narmada. Following  the religion beliefs the farmers suggested the ponds constructed by them in their fields should be called as Reva Sagar.

Bhagirath in the Indian mythology, brought the holy Ganga in the earth his miraculous efforts. The farmers who construct the Reva Sagar(s) in their fields are called as Bhagirath  Krishak in Dewas district.

The concept of Reva Sagar construction started to spread from one field to another, one block to another and from one district to another. The neighbour districts got information about the unexpected result of hundreds of Reva Sagar(s), constructed in the Dewas district in the first year of the campaign. As a result, the people from neighbour districts ie Sehore, Shajapur, Ujjain, Harda, Khandwa, Raisen, Dhar, Vidasha, Hoshngabad, Bhopal and other, started to come to see the Reva Sagar(s) and showed their wishes to learn from the farmers of Dewas district.

The concept of economic of water in Revasagar crossed the limit of the district and was expanded  into districts of Malwa and Nimad region.  Shivraj Singh Chauhan, the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh started to support Bhagirath Krishak(s) to construct Reva Sagar(s) in the entire state.

Umakant Umrao told Ground Report India that for starting he targeted big farmers, who could have taken risks to construct Reva sagar. But because of the impacts of continuous droughts, big farmers also felt the need of financial help to construct the Reva Sagar(s). He called a meeting of all the bankers of the district were organized and invited officers of eminent banks including the Chief Manager, NABARD, Bhopal. Because, it was the first experience to avail loans from the banks, the bankers did not show any interest in this respect. But in a meeting at the district level, the bankers were assured about the repayment possibility of the loan and the various technical and economical aspects of the project were discussed and a project report was prepared, and bankers were assured about the profitability of giving loan for Reva sagar and its repayment potentiality. In order to avail loan from different banks, a team of block level C.M.O. and Block Panchayat was formed to complete all the bank formalities for the farmers.

Umakant Umrao motivated farmers to transform Dewas district into a district of ponds from a drought district by constructing Revasagar(s):

According to the farmers: 

Less Fertilizers but More Production

Farmers told Ground Report India that it is their own observation that the rain water collected in Reva Sagar has more soluble nitrogen compared under ground water which is useful for Rabi Crops.  The collected water of Reva Sagar for irrigation, has fertilizers inbuilt which comes from the waste of Rabi crops, is sufficient for the growth of the plants. The farmers of the district Dewas also told with great enthusiasm  that they use fertilizers less than in comparison to previous years but the production increased as well as the growths of various plants have also increased because of the uses of  Reva Sagar(s) water.  In the  Reva sagar  the fertile soil  also got  collected   along with  water in the Reva Sagar. After  the rainy season the fertile soil could be shift back in the fields, by this method potentiality of the fertility of land also increase significantly. The soil erosion could also be stopped.

Saving  of  Electricity and self-dependency
Reva Sagar is a  surface  water storage. So farmers do not have to depend on the expensive electricity to run costly heavy bore-pumpsets for irrigation, the farmers could irrigate their lands by using traditional techniques as Charka. The farmers are self-dependent because of Reva Sagar(s) the shortage of electricity is not a hindrance to the farmers for farming.

Time savings
According to the farmers, in 100 hours, around 10  acres of land could be irrigated by the tube wells at the rate of 2” delivery of water.  However, Reva Sagar, with the help of diesel pump, could irrigate around 50  acres of land in 100 hours at the  rate of  5 to 6” delivery of water.

Bio-diversity transformation- the Animals, Birds, Migrating Birds, Wild-Life and Environmental Conversation:
Because of  Reva Sagar(s), after the rainy season many birds like hens, duck etc are seen near the ponds.  In Reva Sagar(s), there are enough water even in the months of May/June thus migratory birds and long-cranes have started to come here from the cold regions.

The pasturelands are formed naturally because of the Reva Sagar(s) as surface water bodies thus in past few years; deer, jackals, hyena, fox, porcupines and other wild-animals could be seen easilty in the area.

Ground Report India teams have seen large group of deer, jackal, fox, porcupine and long-cranes in various trips of the area for ground reporting.

Raghunath Singh Tomar & Funeral Ceremony of Tube-Well & Celebration of the Birthday of Reva Sagar

Mr Raghuveer Singh Tomar of Harnawada village is a big farmer having 80 acres landholdings. He was using tube wells for irrigation purposes. He was cultivating Soyabeen and Gram. But production wasn’t good due to frequent power cut and decreased water table. He constructed tank of 1.00-hectare size, which is 12 –15 ft deep at a cost of Rs 5.00 Lakhs. He is still taking the same crops but production has increased due to increased area under crop and proper irrigation facility. This tank provides sufficient water to his rabi crops. He received profit of Rs 1.20 lakh, Rs 5.00 lakh and Rs 8.00 lakh respectively in last three years by cultivating Dollar gram. Later on he closed his tube well and performed the symbolic funeral of the same.  According to Sh. Tomar this tank has providing him dual benefits viz good fertilized soil from the tank silting and reduces the cost of water pumping.  He has been identified as Bhagirath Krishak and disseminating the concept among other farmers.

Funeral Ceremony of Tube-Bore-Bell :: The Devil

The Birthday Ceremony of Reva Sagar :: The Protector

Prem Singh Khichi & concept of Community Pond only for wild-life:

Prem Singh Khichi, more than 70 years of age, is one of the most aware and progressive farmers of the district Dewas.  He is a big farmer. Recently, he motivated farmers to have a community pond which will not be used for irrigation. The community pond will be used by domestic animals, wild-animals and birds.

It is a Social Learning Process :: Dr Abbas
Dr Abbas, PhD, an agriculture scientist in the agriculture department, says “The efforts and victory made by local farmers have become a live community training centre for the farmers of other districts and states.  It is also a learning process of the local community.  Experts of different fields visit here for mutual give & take of the experiences, knowledge and information.”

He praises Umakant Umrao, he says, “I wanted to serve society being a public servant but there was no way to do it. He showed me a path of meaningful life. I enjoy working with farmers. They give love, respect and trust. I am part of their families now. It is really amazing to get love from the community.”

Persons of International Water Management Institute, IWMI; Food and Agricultural Organization, FAO; Centre for Science & Environment, CSE; Wikimedia/Wikipedia; The Chartered Institute of Journalists, London; International PEN; Indian Institute of Technology; Indian Institute of Management and others have visited Dewas to meet the farmers to understand the concept of Economics of Water.

Mutual Trust & Internal Bonds in the Society:
Farmers told Ground Report India about the changes in attiudes in the villagers after the economic empowerment due to Reva Sagar(s).  They said there were many incidents of fightings based on egos and vested interests. Raghunath Singh Tomar told, there is not a single case in last 5 years of fightings based on egos/castism/religion etc.

A very interesting thing has been generated, if a farmer needs a farming equipment then he goes to other’s house and collect equipment and use in his land and handed over to any other to use but at last the equipment reaches to the owner safely.


Umakant Umrao, IAS, as a JALADHEESH (the God of Water) in eyes of local farmers:
Umakant Umrao gained the trust of people by mixing amongst them and became a part of their own social and individual families. Umakant Umrao was going to the farmers’ fields even in very hot days to dig Reva Sagar(s) in their lands.  He became a common farmer to motivate farmers to change their lives.

The words, the talk and the efforts Umakant Umrao poured into the farmers to convince them; are alive in their minds and hearts. As a result, the farmers have been following the approach suggested by him for the Economics of Water even in his absence. Now medium and small scale farmers also are coming ahead to construct Reva Sagar(s) in their fields. They are even ready to take bank loans for this purpose as they have witnessed its benefits.

The Malwa region, a traditional agricultural region has large number of big farmers who are capable to dig tanks in their fields but instead of investing on tanks they were dependents on tube-wells which was a failure. Umaknat Umarao motivated them to participate in Rewa Sagar campaign and assisted them by all means as training, demonstration, financial support and encouragements to make it a successful community movement.

With the time and his dedication, he became very popular amongst the farmers as Jaladheesh- God of Water as mentioned in some of the inaugural stones by local farmers.

The farmers remember him in very deep corner of their hearts, maybe next generations will not know him but the stories will be told to the next generations about him as a genuine and live crusader.

The thought which made him a Crusader:

“As in industrial economy, electrify solar energy petroleum product etc are treated as critical inputs,   in the same ways water is treated as a critical input in agriculture. Farmers could earn more profit with irrigated agriculture than non irrigated agriculture. A farmer who does not have the source of water, if he uses the captive irrigation method, he could earn more profit, which is other words can  be named as Economics of Water, Gender Empowerment and protector of the Wildlife & Environment”.

“Five years before, I had a dream to see 10,000 Reva Sagar(s) in the area; today it is a reality not a daydream.  Now, I have a dream to see 10,000 millionaires according to US$ currency in the area; I do hope it will be a reality in coming years. I am waiting to see one more dream after few years.”

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